How a COVID Birthday Brought a Group of Friends Together
Photo Credit: Joshua Hoehne/Unsplash
With lots of missed milestones, events and get-togethers during COVID, an upcoming birthday for my soon-to-be 6-year-old was a daunting one. My daughter is a very social girl and loves her friends as much as most little girls. On a daily basis, she was asking when she could see her friends again, and as time went on, she kept saying things like, “I feel like I am not friends with my friends anymore” because so much time had passed between their playdates. While I continuously shared that no one was able to play with their friends and that we could call and FaceTime as much as we wanted, it still wasn’t quite enough.
Between the beginning of online learning and her birthday, we participated in biweekly Zoom calls with her class, where everyone had a chance to share what they had been doing. They got to see each other’s faces and connect with one another. However, when Addison’s birthday crept up, she declared that she wanted a Zoom-free birthday. With a declaration like this, I knew I had my work cut out for me.
Just seeing her friends from a distance made all the difference. She sat across from her friends in the driveway, far enough to be safe, while being able to actually talk face-to-face.
I gave her birthday lots of thought and planned out a special day. While I knew that Zoom was off the table, I also knew that there would be people who were unavailable or unable to come for a personal visit. Before the day of her birthday, I signed up for a website that creates online message board, and emailed out a link to all her friends and family. This allowed me to make sure that everyone would be included, from her teachers to our family out of town.
Next up, I created a “scavenger hunt” of sorts for her. Each note had a new task or activity to do throughout the day. One clue led us to the balloon store for a curbside pickup; another note took us to pick up a big doughnut cake along with individual doughnuts for later; then finally, a trip to her favorite restaurant for another curbside pickup to enjoy a birthday lunch. When we got back home, the next clue led her to her room to get dressed for a photographer who was coming to document this special day. Once these tasks were complete, we finished with a birthday “party” surprise. After all, more than anything else, she wanted to see her friends. As kids started to arrive at the house, my daughter was over the moon!
Friends came at different times throughout the day to avoid too many people in one place at one time. I had sent out an email inviting people for different time frames to avoid any confusion. They each brought cards and small gifts to make her feel special, leaving them on the front step so that no one got too close. Just seeing her friends from a distance made all the difference. She sat across from her friends in the driveway, far enough to be safe, while being able to actually talk face-to-face. Visits of all lengths took place for the rest of the afternoon. Each child who showed up received an individually packed doughnut as a “lootbag” and a thank-you for their visit.
While we had been busy for weeks playing Guess Who? and other games on FaceTime, setting up Zoom calls and having game nights with groups of friends online, it didn’t replace in-person visits. My kids needed to see their friends, from a distance at the beginning and then in smaller bubbles as the summer went on. If there is one thing I know for sure, it is that kids need other kids. Living through a pandemic is unlike anything else, and expecting our kids to adjust has been a challenge. However, this experience on her special day made all the difference for my little lady.